Low sugar production is a consequence of poor cane yields not workers’ turnout

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) refers to an article titled ‘Sugar sliding to worst performance in years as workers stay away’ appearing in October 5, edition of the Kaieteur News. The article confirms, in some way, the union’s conclusion that sugar production this year will be the lowest since 1990 when 129,920 tonnes was produced. For the GAWU, this is indeed troubling especially when the industry would have received billions from the Treasury since June 2015 and a further $2B through the sale of lands to the state. It speaks a lot about the efficiency of the  corporation’s IMC.

The article posits that the reason for the poor output is related to workers’ turnout which is stated to be around 60 per cent for the second crop thus far. We see this sordid conclusion as another stop along the ignominious road being taken by the GuySuCo hierarchy and its cheerleaders to shift blame for their poor stewardship to the hard-working sugar workers. This is most obscene and derisive.

The lamentations about workers’ turnout are a complete 180 degree reversal from what GuySuCo was saying a few weeks ago. We recall that the corporation’s Senior Communications Officer spoke ecstatically about improved turnout during the second crop. In reflecting on turnout too, it would be remiss if we failed to take account of improvements of workers’ productivity through mechanisation. Through the use of the semi-mechanical cane loaders, more commonly called Bell loaders, workers’ productivity is doubled. And at Skeldon the mechanical cane harvesters have been very helpful in augmenting production and productivity. It seems that the story should end with the popular saying ‘talk half and lef half’.

In speaking to workers’ turnout too, it must not be forgotten that field workers are not offered work 52 weeks per year. In fact, nowadays, crop weeks may be just around 30 weeks per annum. It, therefore, means for just about half of the year they are not gainfully employed and have to seek alternative employment whenever and wherever it is practicable. This notion cannot be disconnected from workers’ commitment and resolve. Also, we should not fail to consider that when taken together that workers must now confront an unfriendly and arrogant management and purchase in the market at 2017 prices with 2014 wages, it doesn’t take an expert to imagine what that would do to workers’ morale.

The aforementioned article also, for whatever reason, does not take into account the state of the industry’s cultivation. Cane yields are very poor and not in keeping with budgeted figures and far from the potential of GuySuCo. This is the real and primary reason, GAWU contends, for the poor production that will be realized this year, not poor labour turnout as the article wants everyone to believe. An examination of the data would be revealing and would serve as an eye opener for many.

We see the excuse of workers’ turnout as nothing less than a mere smokescreen meant to distract, deceive, and dupe many unwitting Guyanese. The anticipated low sugar production this year will, undoubtedly, be as a result of poor cane yield caused by gross mismanagement of the company.

 

Yours faithfully,

Seepaul Narine

General Secretary

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